Servant or Caesar?

Satan tempted Jesus by offering him political power over “all the kingdoms of the world,” an offer he emphatically refused. Instead of power and grandeur, he submitted to the way of the ‘Suffering Servant’ that led inevitably to death on the Roman cross. The most startling detail of this encounter is that Jesus did not dispute the Devil’s claim to have jurisdiction over the political systems of the world.

Jesus was “driven” into the wilderness by the Spirit where he was “tested” by the Devil. The incident was instigated by God. Satan tempted him in four ways, and his greatest challenge was the offer of unlimited political power - (Matthew 4:8-11).

Cross Sunet - Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash
[Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash]

The Devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the “
kingdoms of the world (kosmos) and their splendor.” He was offering him more than just sovereignty over the Jewish nation.

In the version of the story in Matthew, the term rendered “world” or “kosmos” can refer to the entire physical world if not the Universe itself. The Devil offered Jesus a means to establish the “Kingdom of God,” the very thing for which he was sent.

In the version of the story in the Gospel of Luke, the Tempter boasted that he would give Jesus “all this authority” if he only acknowledged Satan’s overlordship, and he claimed that “it has been delivered to me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it.”

Jesus did NOT call him a liar or dispute his right to dispense political power, which almost certainly he would have done if the Devil did not have this authority. Furthermore, if Satan received this authority from a higher source (“it has been delivered to me”), it could only be God.

Behind the Devil’s claim was the fall of man as recorded in the Book of Genesis. His “right” or rulership over humanity was the consequence of Adam’s disobedience - (John 12:31, 14:30).

To acquire this awesome power Jesus had to “render homage” to the Devil. The Greek verb so rendered denotes giving allegiance to someone of higher rank. In other words, to gain universal sovereignty he needed to acknowledge Satan as his master and sovereign.

Was he not the Messiah appointed by God to reign over the nations? How could he govern the world without the military and economic powers of the World Empire? - (Psalm 2:6-8).

Satan was offering a shortcut to the God-ordained sovereignty promised to the Messiah, a way for Jesus to avoid suffering and death. Imagine all the good he could do if he possessed Caesar’s throne and commanded the legions of Rome! With the military and economic might of the Empire at his fingertips, would not righteousness and peace prevail throughout the Empire?

If ever there was justification for resorting to State power and force, this was it. Who better qualified to wield the imperial might of Caesar than the Prince of Peace?


Rather than bow to Satan or stoop to the violent methods that dominate the present world order, Jesus chose the path of the Suffering Servant. In his Kingdom, victory is achieved through self-denial and sacrificial service for others. “Greatness” is measured by acts of mercy and love, especially to one’s “enemy.”

Contrary to the expectations of his contemporaries, Jesus embraced the “form of a slave” and became “obedient unto death.” Therefore, God exalted him to reign and gave him the name “which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

However, Calvary must precede exaltation and glory, and his disciples are summoned to adopt this same orientation by letting this “mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus”:

  • Who being in the form of God, counted NOT the being like God a thing to be seized, but instead, poured himself out, taking the form of a slave, being made in human likeness; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” - (Philippians 2:6-9).

Institutional Christianity has a long and sordid history of mixing Church and State. The temptation to use political power to impose “right” belief and conduct is too great, but advancing God’s Kingdom through the political means of this fallen age necessitates resorting to the coercive power of the State.

Desert landscape - Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
[Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash]

Thus, disciples of Jesus must choose between following the “
Lamb wherever he goes,” or giving their allegiance to the “Beast.” When they employ the corrupt political systems of this world, they embrace the “Beast from the Abyss,” prostrate themselves before its “image,” and “take its mark.”+

Followers of Jesus must take seriously the Scriptural portrayal of political power as Satan’s territory. If the Devil works behind the scenes of this world if the possession of political power necessitates giving allegiance to him, and since Jesus himself refused to do so, should we not follow his example, or should we embrace what he rejected?

  • The Gospel Begins - (In the ministry of Jesus, the kingdom of God arrived, commencing with his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist – Mark 1:1-3)
  • This is My Son! - (The Spirit of God and the voice from heaven confirmed the calling and identity of Jesus – Son, Messiah, and Servant of the LORD)
  • Voice in the Wilderness - (John arrived in Judea to prepare the way of the Messiah and herald the Good News of the Kingdom, as predicted in Isaiah)



Covenant and Redemption

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